No Problem, Honey

One of Tartlet 1’s favorite jokes is: When is a chef cruel?
A: When she beats the eggs and whips the cream!

My Christmas baking still hasn’t progressed very far as we’ve been wrapping up school work and we’ve had a lot of things on our ‘to-do lists’. So this didn’t involve beating any eggs, just whipping a bit of cream!

Tuesday, as we were anticipating the arrival of The In-Laws the next day, The Husband called to ask if I could provide a dessert for a party on Thursday he had forgotten about. Although my initial sarcastic response was ‘Sure, honey, I’m not really doing anything this week’, I started thinking of something easy I could make that would still not let him down. The In-Laws weren’t able to arrive after all, but I still went with something simple — a repeat Turtle Truffle Tart. But this is a dessert that stands repeating, and I don’t think I’ve made one for this group before. It looks far more complicated than it is. The base is my standard Shortbread Crust, topped with pecans and caramel and a layer of chocolate melted with heavy cream, all staple ingredients in my kitchen and easy to whip up. *evil laugh*

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Toffee Bars

The remainder of the Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed, frozen, or made into soup and now the Christmas baking and party season begins!  The next couple of weeks I plan to highlight some of my favorite recipes for cookies and party fare.  Some foods really do take a long time to prepare to have a good looking presentation and excellent flavor.  These bars do not.  These bars are a hostess’ friend.  They are made of ingredients that are staples in my kitchen, probably yours too.

Toffee Bars

1 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, melted

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/2 c. chopped pecans

Stir together flour, sugar, and butter. Press into the bottom of an 8 x 8-inch pan. Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes or until golden.

Immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over the top and allow to melt. If there are some that don’t melt, put the pan back in the oven for a minute. Spread the chocolate evenly over the top. Sprinkle with pecans. Cool completely before serving.

Red, White, and Goo

It’s fresh berry season and who can resist the beauty and exquisite taste of fresh berries? Not me. Before we left for Montana I had this idea for making a white chocolate fudge with blueberries and strawberries for a patriotic dish. Well, I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand that I thought I did, so it was shelved until we returned. Even then, I didn’t have as much white chocolate as I thought I did so it was really soft and had to be frozen to stay firm at all, but it tasted so good I knew I would try again. And frozen ‘fudge’ isn’t a bad thing in summer!

So last week I attempted this again, but I have to tell you that I didn’t improve it much. I think my idea is just fated to failure because, even though I thoroughly dried the fruit before adding it to the white chocolate, it gets a little watery around the fruit and becomes a runny, drippy mess. It only holds together when frozen and it seems to melt rather rapidly. The first time I had better quality white chocolate than the second, too. I’ll probably tinker with this a little more, but I’ll give you what I’ve done so far. Meanwhile, I’m working on a different entry for Sugar High Friday.

Patriotic Fudge

18 oz white chocolate
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 t. orange extract

fresh blueberries, washed and patted dry
fresh strawberries, washed, chopped, and patted dry

In a heavy pan over low heat, melt the chocolate with the milk, stirring constantly until smooth. Remove from heat and add the extract.

Fold in 3/4 of the fruit. Pour into a buttered pan, 8×10 or 9×13. Sprinkle remaining fruit on top. Freeze until firm.

Truffling With Your Affections

Today was the farewell for Mrs. V. The astute reader may remember there was a farewell last fall but only Mr. V. left us for TX at that time. Now their house has finally sold and they will be reunited (*yay!*) but we are sad to see them leave (*boo!*). Once again I wanted to make something that would suit her particular list of allergies. I made truffles.

You may be saying to yourself, “That doesn’t seem allergy friendly at all,” but I made several kinds. I saw some recipes online for goat cheese truffles, from several sources so I don’t have a specific link, and decided to play with that concept a little to make it edible for our friend. For the savory batch I simply copied a recipe I saw repeatedly — smooth some goat cheese around a grape and roll it in ground pistachios, all foods Mrs. V. can eat!

For the ‘sweet’ ones, I used agave syrup for the sweetener and used both unsweetened chocolate and cocoa powder to flavor the cheese. I rolled some of these in pistachios and some in cocoa powder.

In addition, I made some non-allergy friendly cold s’mores. I rolled a large marshmallow (small ones would have been nice, if I had some) in chocolate ganache (heat whipping to simmering and add chopped chocolate, stir until melted and smooth), allowing the ‘excess chocolate’ (is there such a thing?!) to drip off before rolling the marshmallow in graham cracker crumbs. I made some ‘regular’ truffles as well.

And now I leave you for a week while we go play at the beach, my most favorite week of the year! I have a little something in store for you next week while I’m gone, so hopefully you won’t miss me too much. 😉

Chocolate Goat Cheese Truffles

2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
5 Tbsp. agave syrup
2 Tbsp. canola oil
5 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
12 oz. plain goat cheese

In a small bowl, stir together chocolate, agave syrup, oil, and cocoa until smooth. In a medium bowl, beat the goat cheese for 30 seconds. Add the chocolate mixture and beat well. Roll into balls and toppings of your choice.

Shortbread Bars

When I have someone over for dinner in the middle of the week, I often pick some quick and easy dessert so I don’t derail schooling in favor of entertaining. I’d much rather bake something fancy than be the taskmaster for school, but I don’t want our schooling to drag on to ‘infinity and beyond’, so I usually force myself to be reasonable. Last night Crystal joined us for a very homey dinner of ham and split pea soup (or split ham & pea soup) with roast beef hash & frozen veggies for those who prefer not to eat soup. You can tell she’s becoming ‘family’ rather than ‘guest’ when I’m serving such plain fare!

For dessert we had shortbread bars. This is a basic recipe that I use over and over. Some of my favorite variations are to leave out the mini chocolate chips and put lemon or orange zest and/or extract in the crust and my all-time favorite filling is raspberry seedless jam, but I also like blackberry, boysenberry, cherry, or huckleberry. Strawberry is what I had in the cabinet yesterday. Sometimes I add nuts (1/2 c. chopped pecans), especially to the top layer. It’s really fast to threw together and it’s usually pretty popular. I frequently double the recipe for a 9 x 13 pan when I’m serving a crowd.

Shortbread Bars

2 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter (or margarine)
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla

1/2 c. mini chocolate chips

10 oz jar berry preserves

Heat oven to 350 F. In large mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, butter, salt, and vanilla. Beat at low speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs (or cut in butter by hand). Stir in chocolate chips. Reserve 1/2 – 3/4 c. crumb mixture.

Press remaining mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch square baking pan. Spread preserves over crumb mixture. Sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over the top and, if desired, 1/2 c. chopped pecans.

Bake for 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned and preserves are bubbly. Cool completely; cut into bars.

What A Way To Go

When I was a kid, Kenny Rogers had a hit song called The Gambler (also the title of an album, movie and TV series in which he starred) and one of the lines says, “The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep”. But I think Death By Chocolate sounds more appealing. The good folks at Culinate think so too. In fact, they’re having a contest this week to find the most deadly chocolate.

The good news for you is you can win without even baking a thing! Just go select your favorite and you will be entered in the daily drawings for cookbooks and chocolates and one lucky reader and his/her guest will be chosen for a trip to Napa for the Death By Chocolate Festival. The winning blogger gets the same.

So, what are you waiting for? Go to Culinate now and vote! I’ll bribe you with this maple syrup sweetened cake drenched in chocolate ganache.

Death By Chocolate

1 3/4 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. xanthan gum

1 c. milk
3/4 c. cocoa powder

1/2 c. canola oil
1 1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1 t. apple cider vinegar
2 t. vanilla

2 Tbsp. Cointreau

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 9-inch springform pan or lightly grease and flour two 8-inch tins, or smaller pans, as desired.

Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum in a large bowl; set aside.

In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium low heat. When it is slightly bubbling, add the cocoa powder and whisk well until it is smooth. Remove from heat.

Combine the other liquid ingredients in a bowl and whisk well. Add the cocoa mixture and combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and stir.

Pour batter into prepared pan(s) and bake for 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Drizzle top with Cointreau. Cool completely.

Ganache:

1/2 c. whipping cream
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Heat whipping cream until it begins to bubble slightly; remove from heat. Add chocolate and stir until smooth.

A Housewarming Gift

Back when I first started my blog, it was mostly a different form of communication with some church friends and I’d post a recipe here and there. And then I started getting a lot more page views, particularly for recipes, than people I could account for, unless someone’s cat was sleeping on the keyboard or batting the mouse on ‘refresh’. When I first dipped my toes into the larger pool of food blogs, I was thrilled and amazed by the world out there. One of the first food blogs I started reading regularly was Culinary Concoctions by Peabody. Her posts are so fun and her food so beautiful, I couldn’t wait to see what she might make next. She totally had me with this post and now if I only have time to read a few blogs, hers is one of the ones I check.

The exciting news for Peabody (and Husband and dog) is a new house, which looks especially cute in the snow and has a larger kitchen, so we can only anticipate all the yummy goodness to come! She invited us to join her for a housewarming party.

When I think of a housewarming gift, or nearly any gift really, I think in part it should reflect the unique tastes of the recipient as well as something of the giver’s. In my mind, a gift should have layers of meaning, not just grabbing the first thing you see on the shelf with a ‘that ought to do’ sigh of relief. With that in mind, I made Peabody a chocolate peanut butter tart. You really need to read this post about Jif to understand part of it, but Peabody has mentioned many times the love she and her husband have for peanut butter and chocolate. It had to be a tart because it’s coming from me! 😉

Peabody & household — I wish all happiness in your new home!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart

Crust:
1 1/3 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. butter

Preheat oven to 400 F. Blend together until crumbly. Press into the bottom of tart pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese
1 c. Jif peanut butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
2-3 Tbsp. milk
1 t. vanilla

Beat together cream cheese and peanut butter. Add powdered sugar, milk and vanilla and beat until thick and smooth. Adjust consistency with milk or powdered sugar if needed. Spread onto crust.

Topping:
1 c. chocolate chips
1/4 c. sour cream

Melt chocolate chips in a heavy pan over low heat. Add room temperature sour cream and stir until smooth. Pour over the filling.

Chill.